After competing in triathlons for 9 years, I decided it was time to try something different. In the back of my mind I had always had this idea that I would try to swim the English Channel some day. Now, after almost 2 years of distance swimming training, that day is almost here!

Plot of my course

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rest and Confidence

Well today I did exactly as I had planned. I rested. When you are used to exercising most days, often twice a day, making yourself rest can actually be hard. You feel like you should be doing something to get stronger, faster, etc and that you are being lazy. Back when I did a lot of biking, my legs would actually feel like they needed to go. As if they craved the exertion. But over time I have learned to make myself rest. It helps rebuild muscles and prevent injuries from over-training.

So in that spirit, I did a lot of reading. I sat in the sun behind the property in an old wooden chair looking out over the sheep pasture. It was very peaceful and quiet. Just the sort of thing an introvert prefers. I dressed lightly so that I felt a bit cool but that was intentional. Anything to help my body get used to the cold is helpful.

And I ate a lot today. Also intentional. Still trying to put on as much weight as I can until the last minute. I think I have actually lost a little since I have been here only because when I finish the harbor swims and get warmed up I have missed lunch. I snack on food in the room but it’s not like what I was able to get in me at home with the constant protein/high calorie shakes and frequent meals. For all of the conveniences of this place, there’s no refrigerator in the room so I can’t keep milk for the shakes. But with no swim today I was able to down a lot of food and drink.

But the highlight of my day was a back massage. I was a little sore, really more tight in the shoulders and back from the harbor swims so the massage was just the trick. I think that is the second one I have ever had in my life but I figured if it worked for Dara Torres it wouldn’t hurt me any!

One thing Dara also had was a sports psychologist. I think I could use one of those too. It is interesting to watch how my confidence level goes up and down…usually in direct proportion to my proximity to the cold channel. Seriously. Sitting in my room or even fairly soon after a cold swim my confidence in my ability to get across goes up tremendously. Your messages of support help tons plus all the reasons I want to do this for myself. But when I’m in that darn cold water, I feel like quitting 5 times each second. I win the battle with one second and here comes another one where I have to make the same decision. Stay in or get out. I can’t even think positive thoughts because my body is screaming “get out!!!” over and over every second. I guess that why not so many people sign up to do this huh? The other thing that is challenging and affects my confidence is the waves. I am getting used to them in the harbor but fear they will be much bigger in the channel. If they are coming at me instead of from the sides or back that is going to be challenge enough without the cold. When I did my first (and only) Ironman distance triathlon, I didn’t doubt for a second that I would finish. I had never run a marathon before but for some reason I was just sure I would finish. Maybe because I have had a taste of how hard this will be I just have a healthy respect for it. That kind of wisdom might come with age too. Anyway, in spite of all that I have said about confidence, right now I am feeling pretty good about it. Then again, I’m sitting in my room. ;-)

The “picture of the day” above is of a pub in downtown Dover known as The White Horse. It was closed as I was walking by so I didn’t get to go into it. The significance of The White Horse is that this is where people who make it across the channel sign their names on the wall and have a pint to celebrate. If you zoom in close, you can see the writing on the walls through the bottom floor windows. I really hope I get to experience that tradition.


Anonymous said...


My ears would get cold & my head would start aching. You are the man! We had our last morning of master's swim today...Ward chased Tiffany away early. Make it happen!


Anonymous said...

I am always impressed by your endeavors when I question you about them when we are ushering together at Church. This is whole new level though. We are impressed; and your blog is very interesting. We will be tracking your progress. Good Luck.

Tim and Caroline

Allan said...

Bonnie - I hate to hear that Tiffany is gone from the Y now. She did a lot of good in building up the swim teams and helped me personally with my swimming. Sorry too that the morning practices are done for now. Hopefully we can find someone who will build on what Tiffany started.

Tim & Caroline - Thanks for the nice note! It is good to hear from you. Still whooping everyone in tennis? It's amazing to know so many people are interested in my swim. That definitely will help motivate me!

marcy said...

Hi Allan,

You haven't met me yet, Marcy MacDonald here. Remember Janet Galya, who crewed for you at SwimAcrossTheSound? I've heard alot about you and we both wish you all the best.

Make sure your crew takes their SeaLegs or Dramamine and you.... keep one arm infront of the other.

Remember, it's not a race, just get to France, and success is yours.

Good Luck and be Safe.

Dream, Prepare, Succeed.

Marcy (9 crossings)

Anonymous said...


Obviously as a long time cyclist that has never swam more than a couple laps in a pool, I can’t understand the demands of your challenge. I read this recently on a cycling website and it made me think about you:

“We must sacrifice to achieve. Cycling is a demanding sport. Not just physically, but it demands our time, our devotion, our hearts and our minds. There is always someone out there who is willing to give up more than us in order to succeed and that is the person we are constantly competing against. You can go out and buy the most expensive wheels, the lightest frame, the best energy drink and nutritional supplements, but winning ultimately comes down to will power. Who has the willingness to work the hardest and pay for success with blood sweat and tears? Who is willing to suffer and sacrifice and endure? Who is willing to head out before the sun has risen and return home when it’s begun to set? Who wants it more?”

It is obvious to me you have done all this “homework” and are physically ready for this challenge, now it is just a matter of getting mentally ready. Just like when cycling long distances, in miserable conditions, in tough terrain or at very high levels of exertion, I find the key is letting your mind concentrate on maintaining your rhythm and cadence and then the physical discomfort fades into the background.

Continued well wishes!

Paul S. (Florence)

Anonymous said...


I've enjoyed reading your blog and envy you the beautiful setting, if not your channel endeavor. I just want to remind you how proud I am of what you're doing and encourage you. I was a bit sad I couldn't be your boat support person until I read how much effort Bonnie has to contribute. That doesn't sound like it would have left much time for me to drink Guinness. Good luck, we're all pulling for you back home.

Bill Rivers

Allan said...

Marcy - I don't know you but I certainly know of you. Every channel swimmer does of course. Thanks for writing to me! I have also followed the Google blog closely and have seen a lot of your advice and comments. Thanks for taking your time to help the newbies like me out. Very much appreciated!

Allan said...

Paul - Loved the quote. Good advice on rhythm and cadence too. That definitely applies to swimming. Getting in a grove and going. The waves don't always allow that but as you know, the wind and hills conspire against us on the bike. It's still doable. I can't wait to get back on my bike again when this is over. Its sitting dusty in the garage and thats a sad thing. Happy riding!

Allan said...

Bill - I know you will be tipping one back for me when I go. I am grateful for all forms of support. Perhaps I can return the favor to you when I get back. :-) Seriouisly, thanks for the note. I am excited to go do it.